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Health insurance to cover 95% of rural residents

By Shan Juan  (China Daily)

09:17, January 08, 2013

Parents and grandparents take their children to the No 1 People's Hospital in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, for treatment on Monday. (Photo by Meng Delong /China Daily)

At least 95% of rural residents to be covered, says health minister

China will increase spending on public health insurance, particularly for rural residents, ensuring that at least 95 percent of its rural population is covered, Health Minister Chen Zhu said on Monday.

Under a new cooperative medical care system designed exclusively for rural people, the government subsidy is expected to reach 280 yuan ($45) per person annually in 2013 up from the current 240 yuan, Chen said at a national conference on health work.

"More important, we'll improve the working mechanism and strengthen supervision to help avert unnecessary administration of drugs and examinations to help further ease patients' economic burden," he said.

The current reimbursement rate for hospital expenses for rural residents stands at 55 percent on average, according to the Ministry of Health. However, ideally, this rate is designed to be around 70 percent under the policy, Chen said.

Overprescription of new and more expensive drugs that are not listed on the essential-drug list is mainly to blame, he said.

Non-essential drugs were not covered by the insurance program, increasing patients' costs.

As a part of China's ongoing healthcare and medical reforms, an essential-drug list that includes 307 categories is designed to control drug costs and improve people's access to basic medical services.

A revised version of the list will be issued in a few months, Chen said.

He also pledged to put forward an insurance program for serious diseases and a medical emergency aid system in rural areas to help people with medical bills they cannot pay.

The focus of medical reform during the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-15) is changing to enhance service quality, Vice-Premier Li Keqiang said.

"Increased financial support and innovative ways are needed to ensure that patients, doctors and hospitals all benefit from the country's medical reform," he said at a meeting on Saturday.

Li is head of the leading group for medical and healthcare reforms of the State Council.

The nation began reforms to its medical and healthcare systems in the 1980s, and the latest round was started in March 2009 to provide all citizens with equal access to basic healthcare and medical services.

"Our medical reform directly targets the urban-rural gap and the regional gap. It has won strong support from the public, because it started with strengthening services at grassroots levels and favoring central and western regions as well as rural areas," Xinhua News Agency quoted Li as saying.

Apart from ever-increasing government subsidies, he called for innovation in fields including management, operation, personnel and distribution.

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